A handful of years ago, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe gave a press conference in which he said while he has great respect for Georgia Tech (read: left side of mouth) as a program, he would never employ any of GT’s obviously-effective option schemes (enter: right side of mouth) because the playbook chases away talent.
“If I’m a receiver, why (play at Georgia Tech)?” Cutcliffe asked rhetorically, going on to add that Ramblin’ Wreck head coach Paul Johnson has never developed any NFL wide receivers. (Actually, Georgia Tech has sent multiple WRs to the NFL under CPJ’s watch.)
In any case, since then there’s been just a little extra vinegar in the conference rivalry between GT and Duke.
But the Yellow Jackets haven’t been too successful in getting revenge on the Duke coach and his team in exchange for the infamous slander. Duke has won 3 out of the last 4 meetings, including a victory over the 2014 Georgia Tech team that won the Orange Bowl.
Point spreads are pointing in the White & Gold direction despite GT having lost 3 games to just 1 loss for Duke.
Who: Duke Blue Devils at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
When: Saturday, October 13th, 12:20 PM EST
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Lines: Duke (+3) at GT (-3) / O/U Total: (55)
Duke (4-1)(0-1) sat through a bye and a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech in Week 5. The Blue Devils got their starting QB Daniel Jones back earlier than expected for that game, after his having suffered a broken collarbone a couple of weeks prior. But he didn’t look quite as comfortable in his return…understandably.
It is hard to know how much of the loss should be attributed to his injury, or just to another strong defensive performance from a fine Hokie team. Nonetheless, Cutcliffe will be relying on Jones when the Blue Devils travel to Atlanta this weekend.
On the surface, Duke seems to match-up well against the Paul Johnson offense. The Blue Devil defense ranks 32nd in the nation in yard per rush allowed, played well in Week 1 against the Army triple-option, and have the bye-week to help preparation. The worry for the Blue Devil’s, who currently sit as a 3 point underdog, is that Georgia Tech continues to build on their positive momentum after back-to-back blowout victories.
That, and the fact that you can throw all those rushing yards-against stats aside when you play GT, as Cutcliffe knows all too well. However, the sword cuts both ways for Saturday’s hosts as well. Mediocre rush defenses have been able to stop GT, since defending the Flexbone is a knack.
Overall, Duke has caused enough havoc on the field to keep GT from putting up 40-60 points over the past few years. That allows the methodical Blue Devil offense to grind down an average D and put too much pressure on whoever is playing QB for Georgia Tech in the 4th quarter.
As formulas for beating Flexbone teams go, that’s not bad.
The Ramblin’ Wreck was all-too-fittingly named after a few weeks of horror, but has appeared to find its wheels as the team has pulled even at 3-3 on the year. Though, of course, one could argue that they were just taking advantage of schools (Bowling Green and Louisville) who are currently in free-fall.
That brings up another point, however – some GT bloggers have expressed concern that Louisville scored a few points and gained 4.9 yards per carry in the ‘Jackets 66-31 win over the Cardinals last week.
It’s true that Louisville racked up a lot of yards while in catch-up mode, and the entire fourth quarter was essentially garbage time. But there’s no real way to spin 4.9 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per attempt as positives. The latter figure is especially concerning given that Louisville quarterback Jawon Puma Pass (which admittely is a very cool name for a QB, but did anyone else find it weird how the announcers constantly referred to him as Puma Pass rather than just by his last name?) missed several throws to wide-open receivers even when he wasn’t under pressure.
While the defense from Atlanta will never be dominating (well – at least not this particular one) I think we can at least cut them slack for giving up trash-time points to a hapless-but-speedy foe in a conference game.
Senior QB TaQuon Marshall and the rushing tandem of Jordan Mason and Tobias Oliver will need to continue to dominate time-of-possession and break occasional long runs for GT to have a chance. The defense isn’t skilled to elite level, but does have a knack for picking-off QBs that are having a bad day.
GT has an excellent home-field advantage when things are rolling – when things go south, not so much. I think that the early-season doldrums have worn on The Swarm to the point where they’re more pessimistic about the conference schedule than they should be – even after watching the team rack up a billion points vs UL.
The O/U has been falling, and the reason why is that bettors think an ailing QB for Duke could lead to a lower-scoring GT win. That’s probably not the case. If the ‘Jackets snag picks and recover fumbles, they’ll score 40-50 points and threaten to blow out the O/U on their own. If GT’s defense shows up looking like East Carolina on a bad day (it happens) and Jones goes crazy passing in a heroic return, then Duke could threaten to score 40-50 points and nearly take care of the O/U single-handed.
Take the over (55) for a winner at Bobby Dodd.